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Oct 13 / Dave Schumaker

Fossil Preservation Linked to Prehistoric Global Warming

A study to be presented at this year’s Geological Society of America meeting by Gregory Retallack from the University of Oregon hypothesizes that global warming episodes from large influxes of carbon dioxide and methane could have contributed to “exceptional preservation” episodes.

Well known examples of such preservation of complete soft-bodied fish and other creatures include the Burgess Shale (dating to the Middle Cambrian Period of about 508 million years ago and found near Field, British Columbia) and the Solnhofen Plattenkalk (dating to the Late Jurassic Period of about 150 million years ago and found in Bavaria, Germany). Such exceptional assemblages were thought to have been preserved in environments that were unusually low in oxygen, highly saline, very cold, or extremely dry. What was not suspected until the new compilation was the global distribution of other exceptional fossil deposits of the same ages. Independent estimates of atmospheric pollution crises come from studies of carbon anomalies, microscopic pores of fossil leaves and climatic indicators from fossil soils. Methane outbursts from volcanically intruded coals and submarine gas hydrates are prime suspects for these lethal atmospheric pollution events.

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